There’s a saying in Britain that, when something is a bit twee or a touch picture postcard, it’s described as being a little bit "chocolate box." It’s a term that applies to any "ye olde English" tourist trap you can think of, small snow-capped towns literally resembling the quaint old streets depicted on the top of chocolate box tins in centuries past. Perhaps it shouldn’t be all too surprising, then, that Grandpa’s Candy Factory – a title dedicated to making such condiments – is just a little bit "chocolate box" itself.
That’s exactly what The Easy Company’s latest match-three puzzler represents, its Disney style design and glorious theme park-esque soundtrack giving the whole game a touch of added sparkle. The storyline, too, feels like it’s been lifted straight out of a fairytale, a young graduate heading back to her family’s traditional sweet making factory to take charge of it while her Grandpa takes his long earned retirement.
Trouble is afoot, however, with evil assistant Berthold, determined to turn this candy conveyor belt into a cork and rubber sweatshop, throwing a spanner into the works (almost literally) at every turn. His dastardly deeds enable Grandpa’s Candy Factory to get steadily trickier, what starts out as merely linking up matching hexagons quickly turning into an all hands on deck job, the factory seemingly falling apart at the seams. To keep things going, you play as young Cathy Willmore as she moves from one part of manufacturing to another, keeping a check on both the ingredients and the equipment as she goes.
In terms of play, early rounds are an especially simple affair, the idea being to drag the mouse across three or more connecting identical ingredients to clear them from the board and add them to the recipe. While linking any of the numerous foodstuffs on offer always wipes them from play, in each round you’re actually only after certain ingredients to meet each recipe, a set number of each required to progress.
The other ingredients do have their uses, however. Linking four up triggers a bonus – an explosion that wipes out whole sections of hexagons – that’s activated when caught in a match up, while (in latter levels) a run of six, eight, or even ten sets off an even bigger treats, whole lines or types removed from play when generated. You’ll often find yourself clearing whole chains of superfluous ingredients just to get to the lines you do need, Candy Factory‘s clock – assuming you have it switched on – ensuring that randomly picking off any match-ups you see without keeping an eye on your itinerary proves less and less effective as the levels pass.
But it’s not only the clock that proves your enemy. As the factory begins to destruct, the machines you work with start to malfunction and ingredients get left out in the cold, cracking the ice that encases them or ridding the grid of nuts and bolts an added requirement for completion.
Quite predictably, all of these elements simply make each game slightly more complex than the last. What’s physically required from you never changes – in the main games, you’ll never do anything but drag your mouse over matching hexagons – but the hurdles placed in front of you continue to mount.
It’s only natural, then, that the bonuses too begin to multiply. Time can routinely be added to the clock, series of successful match-ups filling a gauge that can be triggered numerous times in each game, while shaking up the whole grid or aid in removing rogue parts from the machines can also be activated. When all these elements combine, Grandpa’s Candy Factory’s levels really begin to fly.
It’s somewhat needless, then, that the developer has seen fit to mix play up by adding a couple of random mini-games – searching for lost items in the study simply by clicking on every object on screen, or linking up the pipes in the chocolate machine – that neither challenge nor entertain. Of some annoyance, too, are some of the translation issues, the dialogue that sandwiches levels and provides instruction often unreadable, such is Grandpa Candy Factory’s slightly fudged use of English.
Some kind of clearer Tutorial mode might be advisable for any follow-up, but as things stands, once you’ve gotten hold of play, Grandpa’s Candy Factory proves to be just as sweet as it looks. The plot may be pure hokum, but in terms of fast, furious and most importantly straightforward play, the levels deliver, each one serving up just a little bit more magic than the last. It might appear a little too dainty for many match-three zealots’ liking, but underneath its sickly exterior is a puzzler with more than enough filling to satisfy most people’s appetites.